For the first time since the snap election was called, Port Moody-Coquitlam candidates in the 2021 federal election were seated next to each other to make the case why they should represent the region.
On Tuesday night (Sept. 7), the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce hosted a pair of forums at Westwood Plateau Golf and Country Club, giving candidates the chance to address certain issues that matter to constituents.
While each candidate presented its different platforms on a number of issues like economic recovery, childcare and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, there was one common theme — unity.
This was especially echoed on the topics of housing, diversity and inclusion, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I have a mother in long-term care and the Delta variant, as an example, is a real danger to her safety, her health and her life. I have two children below the age of 12; they need to be safe. We need to understand those people are still at risk," said Liberal candidate Will Davis in an interview with the Tri-City News.
He believes controlling the virus at the local level can begin a major domino effect for others sectors.
"We need to close the deal here, we need to work hard to finish this and, you know, that may be very well that it'll an ongoing issue, but we need to make sure that we're at the right place as soon as we can be. The other truth is that small businesses in Port Moody and Coquitlam are still suffering. Some industries are really suffering from this and they're going to continue to until we get this ordeal done."
Additionally, Davis says tackling homelessness is also an area Port Moody-Coquitlam needs to step up to create a unified riding everyone can call home.
He says the Liberals are willing to work with the province in supporting shelters created from empty hotels and will also be there for cities that need extra help too.
"We will be there for the province and we'll be there for the city to support in the capacities that we can to make sure these things are being managed immediately. [...] We need to make sure that we are supporting our new Canadians in finding the affordable housing and spaces that they need. I understand those needs, this is my hometown and I want to make sure we have a voice in Ottawa."
Incumbent Nelly Shin is hoping she can earn a second term in Canada's parliament and unite the riding through compassion and open mindedness.
One way she's seeking to do so is by being a voice for underrepresented minorities, building on her resume as the first Korean-Canadian to be elected to the House of Commons.
On the topic of diversity and inclusion, Shin is planning to expand her connections with local Asian and Black communities and raise their voices.
"They're underrepresented, and I think, in my experience in schools with multicultural classrooms where there are many racialized students, I do have a 'mother bear' heart toward them. I believe it comes across in the way I communicate with them. I am committed and I think the people in our community are compassionate. I'm proud to be in a community where people are in a position where they can support other communities to combat [racism and hate]."
Shin also would like to see the federal government step in on local environmental challenges, particularly with Stoney Creek and the recent fish kill streamkeepers have come across this past summer.
To date, there's been no clarity on what caused the deaths.
"We can keep talking about mitigation, but it's not going to happen if DFO [Department of Fisheries and Oceans] and Environment and Climate Change Canada don't have the resources to have inspections by people done who are experts in those fields," Shin explains to the Tri-City News.
"From those on the front lines, they don't have the experts needed to respond to these situations, so I think even if we have strong policies for climate change or the environment, if they can't be enforced, then we have a bottleneck there."
The NDP's candidate is Bonita Zarrillo and when it comes to uniting a riding, she believes political will is all it takes.
This is especially true of her concern for housing and immigration, believing families should be kept together and claims the orange party's platform to build 500,000 affordable spaces is a great start.
"I'll be right behind them bringing my experience in housing affordability over the last eight years. Over 50% of our community comes from somewhere else and I'll bring that knowledge to the caucus when I get to Ottawa," the Coquitlam city councillor told the Tri-City News, noting she'd be joining the NDP's caucus on housing should an orange wave sweep through the nation's capital on Sept. 20.
Like her Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam counterpart Laura Dupont, Zarrillo also believes the climate crisis should also be addressed in the federal election resulting from the events of summer that included three heat waves and several wildfires across B.C.
She notes young people in particular are telling her they "can't sleep at night," saying they have fears of unlivable conditions — environmentally and financially.
"They have anxiety around what the future is going to look like. We need to alleviate that pressure from them, we need to show them that the leaders are actually taking action on mitigating and reducing the climate change impacts and meet those [IPCC] targets and all it takes is the political will to get that done. [...] We need to get people into homes in this region. Too many are being 'demo-evicted,' having to move away, not being able to come into this community, we need to get people into homes now."
Election day is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 20.
People's Party of Canada candidate Desta McPherson and Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada's Roland Verrier didn't attend the candidates' debate last night.
Tri-Cities Chamber CEO Leslie Courchesne explained the forum was based on criteria set by the Leaders' Debates Commission, meaning candidates could only participate if their party had an elected MP when an election was called on Aug. 15, or if their party received at least 4% of the vote in the last federal election or in the most recent polling.
The evening included opening and closing statements and each candidate was given 90 seconds to answer a question presented to the floor.
You can view the full video below.
SECOND DEBATE CANCELLED
100 Debates for the Environment has cancelled its Port Moody-Coquitlam debate originally scheduled for this evening (Sept. 8) due to a lack of participation from the candidates.
According to the organization only five of the nine across the two ridings responded to attending the event, but two dropped out Tuesday night because of "unforeseen circumstances."